FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Karen I. Ward, Senior Counsel
(800) 537-2632, ext. 7330
TTY (800) 610-2779
Laura Miller, Managing Attorney
(800) 537-2632, ext. 7316
TTY (800) 610-2779
Professor with Disability Reinstated to City Colleges of Chicago
Equip for Equality Obtains Settlement in Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
CHICAGO (September 1, 2004) - Equip for Equality announced today that it has settled a federal lawsuit against the City Colleges of Chicago, obtaining reinstatement to the City Colleges faculty for Jacqueline Haas, a chemistry teacher who sued after she was denied based on her disability. The terms of the reinstatement and other aspects of the settlement are confidential.
"I am completely thrilled with this settlement," said Haas. "In my view, it completely vindicates my claim that I was repeatedly discriminated against, it restores my reputation, which had been sorely damaged, and it allows me to return to my passion-teaching young people about science."
Haas a 62-year-old assistant chemistry professor was employed by Kennedy-King College from 1996 until 2001. She filed suit in February of 2002 in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, alleging that City Colleges of Chicago discriminated against her by failing to provide reasonable accommodations needed to do her job, and for denying her tenure because of her disability.
Haas holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Oregon State University, two master's degrees in teaching chemistry and biology from Universitšt Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany, and a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Chicago. Prior to being denied tenure, she received the highest praise for her teaching from student evaluations, as well as from her department chairman who also made an unqualified recommendation that she be awarded tenure.
A ruptured brain aneurysm in 1989 left Haas with difficulties in walking, vision, manual dexterity, and lifting. At Kennedy-King she faced unfathomable obstacles each day due to the lack of accessibility of the building, the lack of training and insensitivity of staff, and the refusal of the college to provide her the most minimal accommodations.
Haas's visual and dexterity impairments meant that it took her far longer than the norm to complete manual tasks, such as typing and organizing materials. Kennedy-King refused to provide Haas extended access to her own office so that she could complete tenure requirements, which included compiling a portfolio of her extensive accomplishments and completing a tenure project. City Colleges refused to grant Haas an extension of time within which to complete the project, or an additional year in which to compete for tenure, despite having granted these concessions to others who did not have disabilities.
In its Complaint, Equip for Equality asked for a judgment declaring that City Colleges of Chicago was in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 for denying Haas tenure and for refusing to provide her with reasonable accommodations. It also asked for an injunction requiring reinstatement of Haas to a faculty position at City Colleges with sufficient time to complete a new application for tenure, back pay and benefits, compensatory damages, and attorneys fees. The federal lawsuit proceeded for more than two years, in which extensive discovery took place. The case was about to be set for trial when the parties reached the settlement.
"With this settlement, a truly remarkable woman with a disability has finally obtained justice," said Karen Ward, Senior Counsel for Equip for Equality and Haas's attorney. "But the true beneficiaries are the students of City Colleges of Chicago who went without her talents for three years, and all persons with disabilities who seek equality and respect in the workplace."
"Mayor Daley has made a strong commitment to employment of people with disabilities," said Zena Naiditch, President and CEO of Equip for Equality. "Thus, the City Colleges of Chicago should have been front and center in advancing the opportunities of faculty and students with disabilities. Instead, it elevated form over substance to turn back the clock on equal rights. We are hopeful that, with this settlement, City Colleges will commit itself to hiring and accommodating employees at all levels."
Equip for Equality is a private, not-for-profit entity designated by the Governor to administer the federal Protection and Advocacy System for safeguarding the rights of people with physical and mental disabilities in Illinois. It is the only comprehensive statewide advocacy organization providing self-advocacy assistance, legal services, disability rights education, public policy advocacy and abuse investigation.
For more information, contact Equip for Equality Senior Counsel Karen I. Ward at 312- 895-7330, or 800 -537-2632 ext. 7330, or TTY 800-610-2779; or Managing Attorney Laura Miller, 312-895-7316, or 800-537-2632, ext. 7316, or TTY, 800-610-2779.
Reference U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Chicago Case No. 03-1152 Jacqueline Haas v. Board of Trustees of Community College District No. 508, DBA City Colleges of Chicago